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Mother’s Day has special meaning for women who struggle to conceive

POSTED: May 12, 2013 12:40 a.m.
Nat Gurley/The Times

Zafft girls Aleah, 3, and Prielle, 6, show off some family artwork in their Buford home Saturday morning.

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Sometimes Allison Zafft said she thinks about the way her family and her life might have turned out if she’d never had her youngest daughter Aleah.

Aleah was born through in vitro fertilization 3« years ago. It’s a fertility procedure that joins the egg and sperm outside of the body; the fertilized egg then is placed back inside the uterus.

“Every Mother’s Day, I county my lucky stars,” Zafft said. “Because I could have had just one child but I have two. I know we’re very fortunate.”

A few months after marrying her husband, Jason Zafft of Buford, she became pregnant with their first daughter, Prielle, now 7.

Zafft said her first pregnancy was so effortless and smooth that she never considered having another child would be more difficult than the first.

The couple began trying for a second child almost immediately. After six months of trying to conceive, they decided to ask a gynecologist for advice.

The Zaffts went through several rounds of testing and had five unsuccessful in utero inseminations, a procedure in which sperm are placed directly into the uterus.

Allison Zafft said each failed attempt was discouraging. Their doctor suggested they enlist the help of a fertility specialist.

Zafft said the suggestion felt like a bomb had been dropped because she already felt depressed after trying for so long and she knew how expensive a specialist would be.

The specialist determined that Allison Zafft’s age at the time, 37, may be why she was having trouble conceiving.

The next best option was in vitro fertilization, the specialist said.

“We were like ‘Oh my God, is it really worth it?’” Zafft said. “‘It’s going to be so expensive. Should we just be happy with one child and not screw with nature?’ We had those thoughts, as I’m sure a lot of people who go through this do. We decided to give it a shot.”

The couple sold their boat to pay for the procedure, which costs thousands.

Zafft got pregnant but miscarried at 10 weeks.

“It was devastating,” Zafft said. “Emotionally, financially, we went through all of those emotions. And we’d just spent all that money and it didn’t work.”

Her doctor advised the couple to try again immediately.

Zafft admits she was terrified to try again. Plus, the financial burden of another failed attempt would mean she’d have to give up trying.

She said her husband encouraged her through the emotionally exhausting experience and they tried one more time.

The doctors were able to insert two fertilized eggs into her uterus.

Zafft became pregnant with one baby, and 3« years almost to the day of having their first daughter, Aleah was born.

“I couldn’t imagine (life) without her,” Zafft said. “She makes every day brighter. She’s sweet as can be when she needs to be and pushes our buttons when she needs to, too.”

Zafft said she would tell other women who are attempting to grow their families to not lose hope — the result is worth the effort.

“We braved the storm,” Zafft said. “Having her is worth it in the end.”

She also recommends women find someone to talk to, either a friend or family member or online through fertility message boards.

Zafft said she decided to keep her experiences a secret from her co-workers and friends because it was difficult enough without hearing other’s unsolicited opinions and advice.

“It’s very stressful and nerve-racking,” Zafft said. “You go to all these doctor appointments and you’re hoping for the best. But you don’t always get the best news.”

Dr. Thomas Jenkins, an ob-gyn with the Center for Women’s Health at The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville, said stress is a common experience for women as they try to have a baby.

“They can get really frantic about it,” Jenkins said. “The stress is not helping. In fact it’s harmful for them to be stressed out.”

Jenkins explained that stress can cause problems with the pituitary gland in the brain and prevent ovulation from occurring regularly.

Jenkins said a lot of the stress comes from seeing other people become pregnant when they didn’t intend or want to be.

He said the best thing would-be parents can do is to relax. A physician can help to reassure and encourage couples as they attempt to get pregnant.

Trying to have a baby can be a long process for some couples. A huge variety of problems with either partner can be the cause of infertility, but many simple medications and procedures can increase the chances of conception.

“You can go to Atlanta and get sperm or donor eggs,” Jenkins said. “You don’t have to have anything but a uterus to carry a pregnancy. You can have someone else carry your pregnancy for you. There are really very few things that can’t be overcome if one is willing to do those inordinate things and if you have the money to do those things.”

Zafft said that while the experience of having her second was full of challenges and heartache, she’s thankful for her family no matter the cost.


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